Groundwater hydrology helps many groups of people – from farmers to rural homeowners to industrial water supply leaders to well drillers – learn about the development, occurrence, and conservation of groundwater. Forty percent of the water that is used in our homes, businesses, and farms comes from groundwater, which is one of the world's most important resources. If you were to add the water that is used as a coolant in electric power plants and hydropower facilities, that percentage would be much higher.
Across the globe, water is naturally part of the hydrologic cycle in all of its forms, such as the atmosphere, surface water, oceans, and groundwater. The water on the Earth moves in a continuous cycle and has been in balance for millions of years. Conservation efforts are important, as water can be removed from the cycle by chemical and biological reactions, creating an imbalance in the hydrologic cycle in the future.
In order to fully understand groundwater hydrology, it is first important to understand what constitutes groundwater. It is the water that fills the fractures, pivots, and pores in the ground. It is often compared to milk filling the empty spaces in a piece of shredded wheat cereal, as it sits in the cereal bowl.
The surface of the groundwater, called the water table, must also be understood when studying groundwater hydrology. It can be close to the surface of the ground or hundreds of feet below the surface. In between the surface of the land and the water table is a region called the unsaturated zone. This is where the moisture moves towards the water table to replenish the groundwater.
There are geologic formations that contain large amounts of groundwater, called aquifers. The groundwater can be pumped from an aquifer for household, municipal, or farming uses. Groundwater always moves from areas of higher elevation to areas of lower elevation and from places of greater pressure to places where the presser is lower. Usually, this movement is painstakingly slow; however, many scientists are interested in this movement, also known as groundwater hydraulics.
While there are many jobs available for people interested in careers relating to groundwater hydrology, there are researchers who fear that there are not enough people interested in such a focused field of study. In fact, some reports that show that it has been difficult to fill entry-level positions in groundwater hydrology. Consequently, the imagination and interest of younger students must be sparked in the early years of school.